Retailers say last-minute shoppers came to the rescue
January 2, 2009
Local retailers were largely disappointed by December shoppers, saying sales and foot traffic were down.
It picked up right before and after Christmas, however, due in part to procrastination and good snowfall.
Jack Walzer, general manager of Jans Mountain Outfitters, said hotel bookings strongly correlate with his sales figures. Once people started arriving around Christmas, numbers picked up.
"The holiday season was decent," he said. "We didn’t really know what to expect. We weren’t sure what spending habits would be."
Ed Huber of Otto Parts on Main Street said early December was terrible but improved by the 23rd.
"No early snow and the slow economy, it was a perfect storm, so to speak," he said.
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But he had anticipated a slow month and planned for it, he said.
Roots on Main was planning for low numbers as well, said Steve Cummings, but was pleasantly surprised. Sales were down 30 percent from last year, which didn’t make his head office happy, but was an improvement over sales trends during the off season.
"Everyone was looking for deals and shopping at the outlets," he said.
Nancy Gray, general manager of the Tanger Outlet Center was unavailable for comment for this story. News reports have suggested that Wal-Mart was the only major store to see sales increases last month.
Danna Burns-Shaw, owner of the new Burns Cowboy Shop on Main Street, said she wished more had been done to entice shoppers up from Salt Lake City and promote the shopping experience on Main Street.
"I’ve been pleasantly surprised since Dec. 26, but before that it was softer than I anticipated."
Other retail stores she owns in other locations did OK, she said.
"I think we have something we could offer as a shopping experience. Sleigh rides, caroling, escaping the madness of the city we should have had a bigger push on Thanksgiving weekend," she said.
She suggested stores on the street should have set hours so people making the drive will know what to expect.
Mauricio Albornoz, an owner of World Bazaar Outlet in Quarry Village had similar sentiments. He said he wishes the community had done more to entice visitors like offering larger discounts and perhaps tax breaks from local governments.
"Seems to me people aren’t spending their money. They’re still looking, but not spending," he said. December was a big slow down and never picked up."
On certain days he hires people to wave signs on State Route 224 to attract attention to his store. Even that hasn’t worked.
"I was expecting to do a lot more business," he said. "I hope Sundance will bring a lot of outside visitors."
Albornoz said he thinks the media is affecting consumer confidence.
"All is negative, nothing saying to go spend your money. That is going to kill everybody. If you don’t spend the money, businesses won’t survive," he said.
Christie Johnson, owner of Tommy Knockers at Redstone Plaza, blames the media completely. She doesn’t think things are as bad in this area, but negative news is scaring people into holding onto their money.
"I think the media put out too much negative information and it wears on you. Maybe it’s not so terrible. Let people think for themselves. It’s almost brainwashing people saying retailers are freaking out," she said.
In early December people weren’t in "the mood" for shopping, she said. Close to Christmas business picked way up, mostly due to men shopping last-minute for their wives, she said.
"Christmas Eve was ridiculously crazy. That’s a good thing," she said. "All in all it was not as good as previous years, but we’ve had some really good previous years."